About Me

My Photo

Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  

 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Down to the Wire

We still have 10 hours to go and the starving students/working class stiffs offer still stands... make a pledge of $10-20, show up for two days of trail work, end your day with some climbing, good grub and community, and we'll set you up in a campsite and send you a guidebook and T-shirt for the release date.
Due to limited space, campsites will be limited to trail work volunteers and Kickstarter supporters, but there are sites available at private Eagle Rock, which is only $10, and while a bit "rustic", has no quiet time or check out time. Cross the river and climb adventure trad all day long, swim, or check out the rest of this amazing canyon.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blessed

This guidebook could never have been written without the incredible contributions of so many generations of climbers, dreamers and explorers, the support of the climbing and Kickstarter community or the encouragement of the incredible group that I call friends.  If you do not see a name, it is through no failure on the part of that person, but of my own memory.  For any such omissions I must deeply apologize in advance.

This has taken a lot of love and support behind the scenes, from the first routes in the canyon all those years ago, through years of ascents and bivvy sites, jugging and chasing tenuous hooks, rapping and cleaning and building trail when the weather turned, the inception of the guidebook and the gathering of old notes and photos, sorting data, chasing names and grades, accepting that no one can write the perfect guide and trying to write the best guide that I could.
It all began six years ago in the basement of an old church in the heart of Smoke Hole Canyon, and there are a number of folks I must thank for help and belief, input and criticism along the way.
Citation for Dedication Above and Beyond the Call of Duty goes to Michael Fisher, aka Doc Goodwack, single-handedly responsible for some of the finest hard technical and beautiful bold routes in this guidebook.  At Cave Mountain and The Fortress, he was the first in and up the walls with the only routes to date.  At The Darkside or Long Branch, Sunshine and Ninjas Walls, Reed’s Creek and Franklin, he created hard lines and instant classics.  

Anyone who climbs in and around Smoke Hole Canyon owes Mike a big vote of thanks for years of trail work, ground-up ascents, friendly, accurate beta and grueling hours of route-setting in full conditions; a man who stuck to his ethical guns, lives and climbs according to his own inner compass, and has pushed the envelope of traditional and aid ascents in the region since the earliest days of our acquaintance. 

He also happens to be one of the finest carpenters on the East Coast, a hardworking homebuilder who kick-started me when motivation was low, and graciously stepped aside when he could easily have red pointed any of the lines we have developed together.  Without Mike Fisher, I would not have learned half the things I know nor could I have achieved half of what I’ve done on the cliffs and trails… or had half as much fun doing them.

Brian Brydges came out of nowhere, literally, to dive right into the heart of realizing this guidebook. A former Franklin climber who had once or twice investigated Smoke Hole back in the 90s, Brian had gone on to a successful career, marriage and family.  Coming back to climbing two decades later, with an eye toward sharing his love of this activity with his wife and children, he found my name through the magic of the Internet and has been a source of support, inspiration, and infectious enthusiasm for the guide, trail work, and renovation of the aging anchors and bolts since our first conversation. What you hold in your hands is as much his work as mine.

Thanks, Brian.

For stepping up to the plate with hard work and money out of pocket on both trails and new lines, every climber who walks through Franklin and Reed’s Creek also owes a vote of thanks (and maybe a cold beer) to Ryan Eubank and the NoVA/MD Company.  This old climber thanks them each and every one from the bottom of his heart, most certainly The Renovator himself, for proving there are still climbers coming from this age of social gymnasts, and for once again setting a big cornerstone of the dream.

Eternal IOUs to Brian Dziekonski for jumping off when you didn’t have to, Franklin landscape engineering and trail work, perspective and support, proofreading, encouragement, a space to finish the bulk of this project, and an intro to central Colorado’s vast playground of rock, as well as an early and generous pledge to our Kickstarter project.

To John and Bernadette Burcham (and Dom and Beckett); thanks from a couple of rock gypsies.  Ed and Tracy Begoon, for showing me where it all was in the first place, guiding me to gear and routes that wouldn’t kill me; teaching me the art of running a chainsaw in a tree and giving me, from time to time, roof, meal, bed, and fresh coffee.  

For transforming the trails of Franklin and Reed’s Creek, my deepest thanks to Jamie Struck and all of the amazing Spring Break Trail Daze volunteers from Lyndon State College.

Thanks to “Pyro” Pat Frank for service to his country, gear and belays, in-country pick-ups and shuttles, Speyburn, winter treks and realized dreams.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to the private landowners of Franklin Gorge, Eagle Rocks, and Smoke Hole.  Your continued willingness to allow the public access to your lands has given me years of delight, and continues to introduce new generations to a deeper appreciation of West Virginia’s land and her people.

Thanks to all the Trail Daze volunteers, as well as to the Access Fund’s Brady Robinson, the Reed‘s Creek Send-a-thon Crews, “Macdaddy” Mike and Deb Stewart, Randy LaForce and the PA Crue. 

Thank you to Matt Behrens and Mike Farnsworth for the accurate beta on the River’s Bend at Franklin, and for the incredible work you’ve both done toward the future of climbing in Smoke Hole and West Virginia.

Special thanks to Connie Magee, for great conversations, tireless fundraising and Tex-wrangling. Connie ran down funding for our Kickstarter project with the same grace, humor and determination she shows on rock.  We could not have done it without you, lass.

Thanks to the Daily Grind (check out their videos and music on YouTube), Maxim Ropes, Metolius, Fixe, for supporting the publication of this guide and thank-you to all those folks, as well as the New River Alliance of Climbers’ Gene Kistler and Jay Jung, for supporting the Potomac Highland Anchor Replacement/Upgrade Program.

Thanks to the Kickstarters:



Takuto Lehr
Kirby
Matt Behrens
Chris OC
Dallas Branum
Dan Rodrigez
Classic Craig Spaulding
Tony Canike
Mitchell Babarovich
Ryan Nelling
Ted Fogarty
Allan Ange
Sheperd
James Garner
Brandon Dorman
Thomas Shifflett
Sofia Brycock
David A. Cohen
Johnathan Wachtel
Ex Pow-anpongkul
Jackson Crane
Aaron Ray
Greg Sudlow
David Lysy
Steve Jones
Kristan Markey
Stephanie Jesteadt
Michelle Bercovici
Sherry Erickson
Brooke Decker
Katie Hammer
Scott T Olson
Corey Shaw
Mary Lisa Sheperd
Donovan Sweet
Christopher Sweet
David Raines
Chuck Moses
Chazz Ott
Ronnie Stadtfeld
Johannes Reisert
Corey Vezina
Aaron Moses
Adam Byrd
Rick Dotson
Manny Rangel
Michael and Liz
Jeannette Helfrich
Robert Abramowitz
David Mitchell
Mark O’Neal
Mark Fletcher
Tommy Cockerell
Mike Mallow
John Gathright
Stephanie Huxter
Peter Jensen
Lorick Fox
Cedrick Capiaux
Brent Goddard
George Lewis
Samuel Taggart
John
Ryan Fishel
John Burkhart
Kuranes
Kristin Andersen
Big Wall Voltaire Valle
Sam Tradman Taylor
Indy
Good Man Jude Kalet
Stephen Haase
Cap’n Betty Welch
Jeff Koelmay
Pyro Pat Frank
Charles Green
Rachel Wills
Rocky Top
Jeremy Fox
Jon Alexander
Lester
Milas Robertson
Jackson Goss,
Eric Seme
Doug Smith
Jeff Baxter
Dennis Coyle
Jerry Stankunas
Josiah Weeks
Hung LY
Andrew Dotson
Ian Nathan
David Riggs
David Ciesla
Jennifer O’Brien
Frank Velez
Paul Sullivan
Eric Mayl
Jonnie Thompson
Henry Barkhausen
Garth Delinger
Joe Coover
The band The Daily Grind
Alexander T. Hypes
Michael Greene
Joe Thompson
Anliko Lowman
Jason Bethke
Adam Johnson
Keith Fegler
local climber Don Blume
Douglas D. Smith
Pat Light
John Harman
Nicholas
Dave and Liz Farnsworth
Sigmund Young
Scott Ransom
Tim C
Phil Lutz
Joshua McVeigh
Zachary Stone
Mark Veeman
Mark Folsom
Ted Plasse,
Morgan Falls
Danny Rowand
Amy Hazam
John Huber
Eduardo Ramirez
Ethan Atwood
Gabi Benel
James
Andrew Johnson
Todd Sleeman
Tom Georgevits
Kelly Shipp
Ori
Paul Meehan
Dr. Shulte-Ladbeck
David Turk
Climbamt
Josh
Matt Rockwell
Curtis Gale-Dryer



Thanks once again to my old friend Chris Riha, unsung hero of Smoke Hole climbing, to Mister Eric Horst for his kind support and to my Dad, Gilbert Gray for adding one last push to keep us rolling.

Of course, no list would be complete without my personal heroine, the gal who won my heart, Cindy Gray. Despite three back surgeries, a stroke, multiple sclerosis, and degenerative disc disease, she has been a mother, firefighter, bakery cook, EMT, nurse’s aide, and Habitat for Humanity volunteer center hostess, as well as my own confidante, partner in climb, explorer, photographer and videographer, handler, foil, and friend. 

Any woman who will follow you through heat and cold, over boulder fields and through green briars, spending hours on belay and building miles of trail, cooking a three course meal over a camp stove and proposing on Christmas Eve in front of a struggling campfire in a 17F wind chill snowstorm is a keeper, especially if she can also bake a pie.

Glad I was smart enough to realize that.

Good times and bad, fat times and thin, if you asked me today, I’d do it all over again.

Thank you, Miss Pink Pants.

Climb on.


MG

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Excitement is Building

So very grateful, and EXCITED!

For all our new backers, for the folks who have increased their pledges and brought others onboard, for the friends who have stepped up to truly support an idea they nurtured, to my incredible family; mother, father, and my amazing wife, who has done her best to keep me sane through the process (well, she did try...).

We stand at 93% of our $8,000 goal, $7475.... AWESOME!!!

Now I am offering the same challenge to all of our new pledges. You heard about the project from someone... now who do you know that would love to pre-order a new guidebook to over 250 lines, trad, sport, and mixed, from 5.5 to 5.13+, save $10 on the shipping and handling, and in the process help replace worn anchors and support future trail work and community events?

Right now I will up the ante as well- anyone who increases their pledge to $100 between now and the end of the project will be invited to join us for a catered weekend of climbing, camping, community and discovery this fall, again during the holidays when the guidebooks are delivered from the printer, and again next spring. You will receive an additional signed guidebook, a Smoke Hole Canyon T-shirt, and you will be listed on the Smoke Hole webpage and on my blog, Ronin's Road.

This reward is extended to all of you who have already pledged over $100, btw... just another way to say "Thanks".

Starving students offer: Anyone who can only afford $10-20 will be invited to one of three trail work weekends; July 26-27, the first weekend after we get the guides from the printer (sometime between Thanksgiving and early December), and the first weekend in April. Complete one day of our hands-on trail work seminar, join us for pizza and brews and get a Smoke Hole T-shirt, complete both days and get a copy of the guide with a T-shirt.

We are soooooooo close.... let's keep the momentum going!

Thanks and Happy Birthday to Connie Magee!

Happy Birthday and heartfelt thanks are due to Connie Magee this fine July day. Connie has been a vital part of this project and key to the recent surge of Smoke Hole development as well as being a joy to know as a new friend.  
She has worked tirelessly to spread the word about the project from day one, talking to individual climbers,, businesses, and groups, as well as spending a lot of days on belay on hard lines and of course doing a lot of Tex-wrangling. 
THANK YOU, CONNIE... we couldn't do it without you!
Now go eat some CAKE!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Headed for the finish line

Just over halfway through the Kickstarter project and we are at $5,213, 65% of our goal.

I've created a couple of new pages for Smoke Hole Canyon, Franklin and Reed's Creek, one on Facebook, and another on Wix:

http://wvmgray.wix.com/smokeholecanyon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Still rolling... But We Need YOUR Help!

Wow!  $4,813.... just $3,187 to go, and now still 17 days left to reach the goal.


Walls stretch into the distance, waiting; Wildcat,  North Fork Mountain, Smoke Hole Canyon




We CAN do this!



But it will take all of us. 

Patrick, Michael, and Shred, playing with dangerous toys and taking a break during the 2012 Lyndon State College trail-work and climbing trip.  These folks traveled thirteen hours from Vermont to work on our trails and rage on our routes, at Reed's Creek and at Franklin.  Thanks to "Sensei" Jamie Struck and all the lionhearted LSC volunteers.


I need you, all of you, to reach out to anyone and everyone who you know that has not yet pledged,



as I am reaching out now, to all the friends I have who still haven't supported this project, 


to climbing clubs and outdoor groups through cyberspace, to anyone I can think of.


I know we can do this, and I can promise you that I am knocking on a lot of doors behind the scenes.

Thank you, again, to all the supporters, 

and to all the folks who have supported this dream in so many other ways over the years.


.. I'm all out of adjectives, but still have lots of love...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Short and Obviously Incomplete Personal Take on the History of Climbing In and Around Smoke Hole Canyon

While editing the manuscript for my guidebook project, I was forced to trim this brief synopsis, taken from journal notes and conversations with old partners; a necessarily incomplete view of what has come before, who we were, and what we did, where and when.

Mike Fisher gets cowboy on Buckaroo, Reed's Creek


Humans climb before they walk; it's hardwired right into the system. The Dagon, the Anasazi, and countless other aboriginal people have scaled formations of impressive size and difficulty as a matter of religious ritual and daily existence.

No doubt, the natives who traveled the Seneca Trail and hunted through Smoke Hole Canyon ascended many of the prominent spires and outcrops long before the first European set foot on this continent. 

According to local folklore, the first known climber in the canyon made his ascent shortly after the Revolutionary War.

His name was William Eagle, a local who ran away in his teens to join the Virginia Regiment of the Continental Armies, and served with distinction before returning to Smoke Hole to raise sheep and start a family. The story claims that one day an eagle swooped down and snatched up one of William's lambs, carrying it to an eyrie on the summit of Eagle Rock. 

Annoyed by this, as any hardworking veteran farmer would be, William went to retrieve his lamb.



In much the same way as the Federal government reaches out to farmers and small communities today, William was attacked by the eagle, which tore a huge chunk of flesh from the Revolutionary War veteran’s side.  By the time William reached the bottom and re-crossed the river, the story claims that his hair, long and coal black, was completely white.  It was in honor of this event that William named the formation and surrounding ridge Eagle Rocks.  He is buried across the road from the entrance to Eagle Rocks Campground, where there is a historical plaque recounting his life.

As with nearby Seneca Rocks, modern climbing came to Smoke Hole with World War Two and was probably practiced by returning veterans and traveling Europeans in the following decades, although the canyon was, in those years, a wild and woolly place, with a dirt and gravel road prone to wash out and rock fall. Many of the inhabitants were less than receptive to outsiders trampling their land in search of rocks to climb.  

As a result, climbers spoke only to close friends of their discoveries and rarely returned to even great crags, with so much more rock to explore. Who knows how far afield Don Hubbard, The Conns or any other member of that early pantheon of venerable hard persons wandered on unrecorded trips?  

Information is sparse, and jealously guarded where it exists, but many inhabitants of the canyon remember people climbing on Eagle Rock and the Entrance Walls.  Old rope burns on the older trees atop many of the prominent cliffs, rusting piton belay and rappel stations and faded remains of webbing slung round stumps and chockstones attest to a rich history of exploration at which we can only guess.


 
When the Monongahela National Forest finally yielded to years of climber and tourist requests and complaints and installed the first swinging bridge at Seneca Rocks in 1978, one of the unforeseen but inevitable side effects was the influx of large numbers of people for whom the solitude and natural beauty afforded by the crag meant nothing.  

The August ’78 issue of “Off Belay” magazine reported that, following at least one day of mayhem and trundling by a group of teenage tourons and their handlers below the popular East Face, “locals… (had begun) climbing at some of the more remote crags in the Smoke Hole Gorge.”  At that time, “locals” included Howard Doyle, Eric Janoscrat, Hunt Protho, Ray Snead and John Stannard, all explorers and pioneers. 

Seneca Rocks icon Mike Goff and comrades climbed so extensively around the area that it is impossible to say that they didn’t climb anything… so we’ll say they likely climbed it all… no doubt in tricouni nailed boots and EBs, with slung machine nuts, without placing any stinking bolts, on milspec surplus nylon ropes and salvaged US Ames pins, long before most of us were a gleam in our father’s eye.  

Local guide and avid fisherman Darrel Hensley explored and climbed extensively in the canyon years before most folks.  Sport climbing seems to have reached the canyon late, sometime in the 90s when Darrel and friend Nanette, Ed Begoon and Tracy Ramm crossed the frigid river to bolt a line on Eagle Rock’s steep SW Face; just right of the notch that breaks the formation.  Apparently conditions were so heinous that Eddie was considering turning back, but by then Tracy was already wet and he knew that nothing could be worse than telling her she had done all that for nothing. 

But it was close…

This is how it began for me.

In the fall of 1992, a group of climbers sprawled on the shaded boulders below the sport crag of Franklin, West Virginia; Ed Begoon and Darrel Hensley, Troy Johnson and your humble author. 

Ed and Darrel were both relaxing between attempts at their serious new line, “Mostly Harmless”, Troy and I were finishing a day of chasing bolts and endurance on franklin’s juggy faces, and the four of us were rapping about falls, leading, the weather, and the surge of routing activity at Franklin.  There had been a spate of good lines and bad, a few of which had been mine, on both sides of the coin.  Franklin wasn’t “tapped out” by any means, as later decades would show, but crowds were increasing and the luxury of leaving a line equipped for a week had become the gamble of losing a dozen quick draws and fixed gear, as well as the first ascent, after weeks of work.

We weren’t whining, well, not too much... mostly, though, we were thinking aloud, looking for an out from the corner into which we had literally bolted ourselves.  It had been a fairly productive climbing day and was nearing dusk.  Beer was calling, along with thoughts of hot food and a shower, distracting me from most of the conversation, when Darrel looked at me with a wicked grin, and said “You guys should come down to the Smoke Holes and help us develop lines there.” 

Smoke Holes?  Where in Creation was Smoke Holes?

Turned out it was actually called Smoke Hole, singular, as in Smoke Hole Canyon.

Canyon? 

Just the word registered in my pre-occupied and climb-frazzled consciousness.  Canyons are not common in the Eastern portions of West Virginia.  Gorges aplenty, but canyons?  Not so much.

When asked for details, Darrel gave us a quick sketch of the short, easy drive from Franklin.  As we begged for more beta, the Seneca hardman wiggled his eyebrows and looked to Ed, who in turn nodded with a rapid intensity that said “Check it out.”

The Honemaster had spoken.

A week later, Troy Johnson and I drove into the canyon.  We must have walked fifteen miles that day, to drive a total of eight; sprinting up to the Entrance Walls hanging gardens of ferns and the Mystery Pin that was fixed even then; staring down into the gorge at the canyon’s base as we wound above the cliffs and swimming holes full of bass and trout.  I still remember the instant shock of déjà vu, seeing Eagle Rocks and suddenly remembering a lost backcountry climb with a friend as a relative novice, a decade before.  We stopped at Shreve’s Store, bought sodas and snacks and asked about the weather, petted the dogs and were on our way.  Beyond, we found the Long Branch and Sunshine Walls, just two miles from the store.

In search of shade from the summer heat as well as sunny winter climbing, Troy and I ruled against another southeast-facing crag and hiked up to Long Branch, which we dubbed The Darkside for its shady cliffs and the looming, overhanging north buttress.  We started cleaning and putting in lines a week later, with the mixed 5.8 Through the Looking Glass and the much stiffer Local Hospitality.  We were pushing our envelope, each exploring the boundaries of their own comfort level; sometimes progressing rapidly, cleaning and drilling a line in a single day on rappel, sometimes forging ground-up, often solo, in fits and starts. 

We told two friends, and they told two friends, and word spread, as it does in a small community of climbers.  Within a month or two, the hardpersons of Seneca Rocks, New River Gorge and insane North Carolina crags showed up to see what we had been up to.  

They crossed the Branch and established the lines on the Sunshine Wall in a siege of creation and sending, pretty much doubling the amount of available climbing in a month.  Darrel, Tom Cecil and Tony Barnes wandered over to the Long Branch Wall to find a long-remembered beauty, and Tom bolted Beautiful Loser ground up, creating one of the most beautiful lines in the canyon.  Tony established a mixed line next to it that became known as Barnes’ Mixed Bag, which is currently without anchors since the tree used for the purpose died.  

Meanwhile, it seemed as though almost every climber in the Harrisonburg community spent time top-roping and on belay, working the varied, gymnastic moves of Shattered Illusions, which would eventually go at a bouldery 10 on the first ascent by Troy Johnson and myself.

Ed Begoon and Troy were avid paddlers at the time, and they dropped into what is now known as Copperhead Cove to find mystery bolts on a riverside wall.  Troy later put up a handful of burly lines on either side of these, filling in the shady riverside sweep of stone they found above a jumble of huge boulders and a perfect swimming hole.

Mike Fisher pushed into several back corners and bolted the first mixed route on Cave Mountain.

I was working a construction job that had very little to offer the soul, and took the toll of a Titan on the body; pouring and finishing concrete three to five days a week, ten to twelve hours each day of wading shin-deep in material with the consistency of thick oatmeal, kneeling and trowelling for hours around some architect’s insane idea of a retaining wall; running jackhammer and building forms, tying rebar and then turning around to take it all apart again.  The mountains were my only haven of sanity and balance.  My small cadre of climbing partners was my family.

Because we had history, not just exchanged numbers on a bulletin board or time in a gym, posts on a website or spray sessions on the Front Porch, but hours and days of shared laughter and tears, in cold and heat, rain and snow, hard lines and bad falls, rope drag and poor gear, bogus beta and ghetto bivvies.

Before we were bolting lines at any crag, we were devouring climbing; we top roped and learned to place and fall on gear and set-up simple lines on the short cliffs of the Shenandoah Valley: Hidden Rocks, Hone Quarry, Lover’s Leap, Goshen Pass, honing our skills for the challenging sandbagged classics of Seneca Rocks.  We climbed the tiny, hard to reach corners of Shenandoah National Park.  We visited and were humbled and challenged by New River, and the granite of Old Rag, Looking Glass, and the White Mountains. We bouldered almost every stone over the height of ten feet in Gum Run and Rawley Springs, on Dictum Ridge and Second Mountain.  We spent a lot of time in a little shop called Wilderness Voyagers, with a great crew of hard-climbing outdoorsmen and women. 

John Burcham was one of the pioneers of Franklin, a thin, caustic clown prince; shredding lines and boulder problems as if there was no tomorrow, spending summers in Alaska working and climbing, exploring America with his camera in hand, and driving a new generation of Shenandoah Valley climbers to push the limits. 

Todd Shenk was the quiet, handsome local lad who actually made a mullet look good.  He knew the nuts and bolts of every piece of gear in the place and was a solid climber who could be counted on for a great belay and a laugh on a hard day. 

Tracy Ramm was the third axis of the group, a hard climber in her own right with first ascents on gear and bolts; an incredibly friendly and laid-back lass with long brown hair and calloused fingers, she guided us towards more than one good gear purchase and offered the lessons of her years in the mountains without a trace of ego. 

One absolutely frigid winter morning, as Melissa Wine and I faced the prospect of another cold day at Hidden Rocks, Tracy handed us a set of topos to a place called Franklin, a sunny little river gorge which was only thirty minutes further from Harrisonburg. 

We found our way to Pendleton, and to Franklin.  One run up the juggy faces, and we were hooked.  Weeks were spent plotting, and our climbing days were spent learning at light speed around a core group whose names could be found in any guidebook to Eastern United States climbing; Begoon, Powell, Clark, Hensley, McGinnis, Artz, Barnes, Cecil, and Shull. These folks had created an area which had become a nursery for young climbers, a place for testing personal limits, pushing the grade and learning about the basics of bolting and the ethics of sport versus traditional climbing.  

We met some amazing climbers from across the nation and learned some hard lessons about impact when the area was included in several publications and traffic increased exponentially overnight. We watched and read as the problems plaguing our secret garden were debated and dissected in the national climbing press and, in some cases, the global climbing community.

And, eventually, with a nudge from the previous generation, we found Smoke Hole.

Now it is my turn, and this is your nudge.

Some of those issues we faced and tracked have found consensus and are seeing management through unified effort.  Some, like the issue of dogs at the crags and fixed draws, or the truth of who stole whose line/girlfriend/campsite/clients will likely be with us the day earth falls into the sun.

After several decades of exploration, discovery and development with an amazing, ever-evolving assortment of great climbers, and after long debate over impact and the loss of historical climbing information, I can only hope that knowledge is power; the power to control our impact, to be good stewards, and to have the most fun humanly possibly while ensuring that the opportunity to do so is preserved for all time.

In the end, we are all on the same team.  A good friend reminded me of that, not too long ago. Nothing about those issues changes the beauty of the stone and the routes we climb, and the turmoil we find down here, on level ground, pales in the pure joy of remembering those great ascents, wonderful days with friends, the glow of accomplishment and the rush of discovery and adventure. 

There are other stories of climbing and climbers in Smoke Hole and the surrounding region that have not found their way into the light.  I hope that someday, those who know those tales and who have the much more complete records will make them a part of the national archive of climbing history.   We are a part of the cornerstone, and I would love to hear from anyone with climbing tales of Smoke Hole, Germany Valley, North Fork Mountain, or any of the crags of Grant, Pendleton and Hardy Counties; wvmgray@gmail.com or in the comments section of this post.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Adding Value

New route, Little Khumbu, 5.8R, 5 bolts, 2 bolt anchor, 45 feet, formerly a toprope, cleaned, drilled, bolted and redpointed in about 4 hours by Cindy and Mike Gray, 6/22/2014.

Great way to end a birthday weekend.

We have also raised 34% of our goal on Kickstarter, and some thanks are in order.

Thanks to Brian Bridges for the biggest boost so far, and for funding much of the ongoing hardware replacement up to this point.

Thanks as well to Brian Dziekonsky, not only for his generous pledge, but  for house and home, good food and endless hospitality, even after a half dozen returns by the Gypsies from 2011 to 2012. Without him, this guide would not be the same.

Thanks to Ryan Eubank for your generous pledge and for hard lines and trail work, for introducing us to so many great climbers and for keeping it real even in the dead of winter.  We’ll see if we can fill that request, I promise… got some bargaining to do…

Thanks to Michael Farnsworth and Connie Magee for new lines, new enthusiasm, hard work for the area’s future and your generous support of the project from the very beginning.

Thanks as well to Takuto Lehr, Kirby, Matt Behrens, Chris OC, Dallas Branum, Dan the Mad Man Rodrigez, Classic Craig Spaulding, Tony Canike, Mitchell Babarovich, Ryan Nelling, Ted Fogarty, Allan Ange, Sheperd, James Garner, Brandon Dorman, Thomas Shifflett, Sofia Brycock, and David Cohen, thanks to you one and all for your pledges, and for continuing to spread the word… over 1/3 of the way to our goal in three days is pretty impressive.


Let’s keep it rollin’!

Layout of the Guide: publishing and distribution, fundraising and PHAR/UP

So, as I said in the video, here's the deal:

I'm trying to raise $8,000 with a Kickstarter project to publish my climbers' Guide to Smoke Hole Canyon.  Of that, Kickstarter and amazon will take 8-10% or $640-800.  Publishing and shipping the books from the printer will cost $6500, coming to a total of between $7140-7300, leaving $700-860 to distribute the rewards and/or guidebooks to backers of the project.

Any funds raised above the goal of $8,000 will go to PHAR/UP, a plan Mike Fisher originally came up with, asking climbers to contribute to and support the ongoing replacement of hardware for older lines and worn anchors, while qualified, skilled route-setters replace that hardware.

I'd like to thank Bix and Terri Kolbe-Houff of Wilderness Voyagers, Keegan Dimmick and Chris Irwin with the Mid-Atlantic Climber's Coalition, Gene Kistler with NRAC, Brad Dorough at Metolious, and Kevin Daniels at Fixe for their support of our efforts, with donations of bolts and hardware over the last ten years.

But time goes on, the routes get older, and entropy means we have to keep replacing things.  This is one way to help, by helping to publish a guide that will continue to fund new routes and new gear for classics, feeding trail-work and clean-up volunteers, and supporting the small local shops that will eventually sell this guidebook.

I will create a separate page to track and account for expenditures of the profits, once we have published and distributed the pledged guidebooks and rewards.  Stay tuned for details.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Climbers' Guide to Smoke Hole Canyon update: Kickstarter is LIVE!

Video loading (slowly, public library), but we are live and have raised $2400 in just over 36 hours!

Check it out- now is the time to pre-order your copy with a $30 or 50 dollar pledge, or to push us along with a bigger commitment if you can, for a signed, numbered copy of the guidebook and a day of climbing in the canyon with the author serving as your personal chef, low-altitude Sherpa and belay slave.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2062866359/a-climbers-guide-to-smoke-hole-canyon-west-virgini